Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The sentencing of Brent Wilkes for paying bribes to former Representative Randy (Duke) Cunningham may well produce the longest sentence for public corruption seen in a very long time, and perhaps ever. As discussed in an earlier post (here), the U.S. Probation Office recommended a sixty-year prison term for the offenses, based on the amount of the bribes and business gained from them, the involvement of an elected official, Wilkes' leadership role, and obstruction of justice. The U.S. Attorney's Office weighed in by responding to objections raised by the defense in a brief (available below) that describes Wilkes as the spider and Cunningham the fly trapped in the web of corruption -- a little cute, to be sure. Prosecutors take shots at both Wilkes and Cunningham in the filing, describing the former as "a war profiteer, a thug, a bully, a lecherous old man who preyed on his young female staffers and hired prostitutes" and the latter as "simpleminded" and "of limited intelligence." Certainly not the way you hear a former Congressman described very often.
According to a San Diego Union-Tribune story (here), prosecutors recommend a sentence at least double Cunningham's 100-month prison term for Wilkes, which would be nearly seventeen years, and then ask for a twenty-five year term. Under the Sentencing Guidelines calculation in the Presentence Report, Wilkes can be sentenced to life in prison. While I doubt U.S. District Judge Larry Burns will come in at that level, he may well sentence Wilkes to a prison term that will rival those received by Bernie Ebbers (twenty-five years) and Jeffrey Skilling (twenty-four+ years) for corporate frauds. How often do you see the U.S. Attorney's Office recommend a lighter sentence than the Probation Office, especially for a defendant who went to trial and is assailed as having committed perjury in his trial testimony (note the "Top Ten Lies" section of the government brief)? (ph)